Falcons highlights: Ryan to Pitts combo overcomes near disaster

Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (8) makes a catch, defended by Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard (25) and Miami Dolphins free safety Jevon Holland (8) late  in the second half Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (Hans Deryk/AP)
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Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (8) makes a catch, defended by Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard (25) and Miami Dolphins free safety Jevon Holland (8) late in the second half Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (Hans Deryk/AP)

Credit: AP

Matt Ryan and Kyle Pitts did it again. Trailing by a point after his own fumble, the veteran Ryan led the Falcons on a game-winning drive with a lot of help from the rookie tight end. The victory was capped by Younghoe Koo’s 36-yard field goal as time expired for a 30-28 win over the Dolphins. Here are the highlights:

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Play of the game: It was almost disastrous for the Falcons. A Ryan fumble with under six minutes remaining set up the Dolphins for a go-ahead touchdown and a 28-27 lead with 2:27 left. On a scramble, Ryan tried to cutback to gain some extra yards but was caught from behind by Emmanuel Ogbah and stripped of the ball. It was recovered by Nik Needham at the 40-yard line. The play could have spelled yet another unfathomable loss for the Falcons. However, Ryan led the Falcons on another fourth-quarter, game-winning drive, the 33rd of his career including playoffs, to erase the near-costly fumble.

Offensive game ball: Is there any doubt? No. Pitts has continued to make clear why the Falcons selected him with the fourth overall pick in the NFL draft this year. Pitts finished with seven catches, on eight targets, for 163 yards, including a spectacular one-handed grab in the second quarter. In the win over the Jets before the bye week, Pitts had nine catches for 119 yards and a touchdown. Do the math, that’s 16 catches for 282 yards in the past two games. On the Falcons’ game-winning drive against the Dolphins, starting from their 25-yard line, the first two plays were completions to Pitts for 23 and 28 yards, the latter putting the team in field goal range.

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Falcons safety Jaylinn Hawkins (32) reacts after intercepting a pass in the end zone intended for Miami Dolphins tight end Durham Smythe during the first half Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)

Credit: Wilfredo Lee

Falcons safety Jaylinn Hawkins (32) reacts after intercepting a pass in the end zone intended for Miami Dolphins tight end Durham Smythe during the first half Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)
Caption
Falcons safety Jaylinn Hawkins (32) reacts after intercepting a pass in the end zone intended for Miami Dolphins tight end Durham Smythe during the first half Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)

Credit: Wilfredo Lee

Credit: Wilfredo Lee

Defensive game ball: The Falcons want takeaways. Jaylinn Hawkins gave them another one. The free safety had his second interception in as many weeks when he picked off Tua Tagovailoa in the end zone with 36 seconds remaining in the first half. The Dolphins were driving for a go-ahead touchdown while trailing 10-7. Instead, the Falcons used the little time left for a 36-yard field goal from Koo for a 13-7 lead at intermission for a 10-point swing.

Key stat: Ryan completed 25 of 40 pass for 336 yards and two touchdowns. Nine different receivers caught passes for the Falcons. Russell Gage hauled in a 49-yard completion for a touchdown. Calvin Ridley had the other score.

Biggest takeaway: The Falcons got the draft pick right. While there was so much talk about the team selecting a quarterback with the No. 4 pick to succeed Ryan, the organization couldn’t pass up on Pitts. It was a wise move, especially after the departure of Julio Jones. Pitts is paying dividends each week as he becomes acclimated to the NFL.

They said it: “On defense, obviously you want to stop them. But on offense you want the mindset of good, give us the ball, give us a chance and we’ll go down there and close it out.” — Falcons head coach Arthur Smith on game-winning drive

Next up: The Falcons return to NFC South play by hosting the Panthers at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

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